Hospitals across Maryland, including the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, are filling up with patients with the flu. It is hitting the US earlier than usual. Early indications are that the shot that we all received is consistent with the current strain of flu; very good news. WMHS took an extraordinary step this year by requiring all employees and members of our medical staff to be vaccinated against the flu. (We also offered the vaccine at no charge to the immediate family members of our employees, as well.) We advised our employees in 2011 that they would be required to get the flu shot in 2012 and the overwhelming majority complied. Some were excused for very valid medical reasons and a few have requested a religious exemption. We are currently evaluating those who requested an exemption for religious reasons and until that matter is sorted out, they have continued to work. A handful of employees resigned as they refused to get the flu shot. Some got the flu shot but claimed to do so under duress. There was no duress; it's simple: we are in the business to protect our patients at an extremely vulnerable time in their lives. If you can't embrace that concept, you will have a hard time working in health care going forward.
Hospitals across the country have the highest overall employee participation this year with 83.4%. The great majority of Maryland hospitals now require their employees and members of the medical staff to get the flu shot. As an industry, health care is at a 63% compliance rate and the general US population is 42% in receiving the flu shot. Nursing home compliance is at 49% and physician office settings are at around 65%. At WMHS, including our nursing home and physician practices, we have around 98% of our employees and physicians who received the shot. A heartfelt thank you to our employees and medical staff members as our patients will be the true beneficiaries of such an outstanding rate of compliance.